I see a lot of accessible rooms and do a lot of site inspections in my travels; and granted, some properties fare much better than others access-wise. I’m an optimist at heart though, and believe that everyone who makes the effort to add access features to their property has good intentions. But you know what they say about the road to Hell and good intentions.
Still, I’m genuinely glad folks make the effort , especially when many are not required to add access features.
I will also say that I usually see properties after access features have been added; and the one question that most everyone has is “Did I do it right?” Unfortunately that’s not something I can or even chose to answer, as my job is to report the access I find, not to do an access inspection for the owner.
That said, there are many experts that offer this sort of service, so I encourage you to seek them out if you are wondering if your own access improvements make the grade. Even better, contact one of these experts before you make access improvements, so you won’t have to worry about fixing things after the contractors leave.
But since I do get questions about access features time after time, I’ve decided to share my short list of access oversights with you. Bear in mind this isn’t a comprehensive list, but things I most often find lacking in my travels. Additionally, most are very easy and inexpensive to fix.
- Missing or Inadequate Toilet Grab Bars
I’m seeing this more and more lately, and I can only assume its because property owners think it’s unnecessary. First and foremost, it is the law – one grab bar behind the toilet and the other on one side of the toilet. There are also specifics for placement and securement. Beyond that, many people need help sitting and getting up, or transferring to and from the toilet, so this feature is essential. I also have to point out that a towel bar is not sufficient. You need to have properly placed grab bars that will support the weight of an adult. Otherwise, it’s just an accident waiting to happen!
- Inadequate Pathway Space Around Beds
This is a simple one to fix, as furniture is easy to move and remove. Pathway access on both sides of the bed – room enough for a wheelchair – is essential because some folks can only get in and out of a certain side of the bed. The room I’m currently staying in has about 48 inches between the two beds and 20 inches on each side. Granted a wheelchair-user could pick whatever bed he wants and transfer from the middle, but what if you have two wheelchair-users that want to share the same bed but need different sides to transfer in? My point is that everyone has different needs, so that’s why it’s important to have an adequate wheelchair pathway on both sides of all your beds. Like I said, sometimes all it takes is moving the furniture around a bit, and it will make for very happy guests!
- Essentials Placed Out of Reach
I absolutely hate it when I see the coffee maker of the ice bucket on top pf a tall armoire in an accessible room, as it’s out of reach of wheelchair-users. It’s also such an easy fix. Don’t assume all wheelchair-users travel with someone who can retrieve essential items for them. In this day and age that’s simply not the case. Make sure all items in your accessible rooms are easily reachable by wheelchair-users.
- Fold-Down Shower Bench Out of Reach of Shower Controls
This is probably the most expensive fix on the list; however in most cases it’s also something that was done incorrectly by the contractor, so you do have some recourse. Basically, when you sit down on the shower bench you should be able to reach the shower controls and the hand-held showerhead. Again, many people travel alone; and even if they don’t they don’t necessarily need assistance in the shower — that is, if everything is within reach as it should be.
- Accessible Tub Without Tub Chair
Last but certainly not least I have to include the absence of a shower chair from accessible tub/shower combination units. Again I’ve seen some great bathrooms with accessible tubs, that are sadly missing the tub chair. Remember, not everybody can stand up to use the shower, and sponge baths are really not an acceptable alternative. So keep this in mind when designing your accessible bathroom. And if per chance you don’t have a tub chair now, that’s an easy and relatively inexpensive fix.